The legend of Michael Jordan is littered with stories of greatness. From the flu game to his game-winner against the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals and everything in between, there was no one quite like Mike. One lesser-known story about Jordan’s greatness comes from a regular season game against the Atlanta Hawks in 1987. Dominique Wilkins told the story to The Players’ Tribune. One night Jordan was feeling especially cocky, so he ventured into the Hawks’ locker room before a game and talked trash to get in their heads. He went out and scored 61 points a few hours later.
Wilkins knew Michael Jordan was special as a freshman in college
Dominique Wilkins sat down with The Players’ Tribune last year to share stories about his NBA playing days. When reminiscing about Michael Jordan, Wilkins said his first memory with MJ came from Jordan’s freshman year at North Carolina.
Wilkins was a junior at Georgia at the time. His Bulldogs faced off against Jordan’s Tar Heels in the 1981-82 season. Wilkins remembers the game going back and forth for 38 minutes, but Jordan came alive in the clutch to seal the win for UNC.
“In the last two minutes, this young kid named Michael Jordan took over,” Wilkins said. “He won the game for [North Carolina], and I said then, ‘He’s going to be a hell of a player.’ He was a killer. He wanted to take your heart out.”
Wilkins told the story of MJ crashing the Hawks’ locker room
The Jordan story Wilkins will always remember most is the locker room story from 1987. The Hawks were in Chicago to face the Bulls in a regular season game, and Jordan decided to have a little fun beforehand.
The Hawks had just walked into the visitor locker room when an unfamiliar figure appeared. It was Michael Jordan. He walked right past Wilkins and Kevin Willis in his suit and tie. When he got to Randy Wittman, Jordan tapped him on the leg and said, simply, “Lace ’em up. It’s gonna be a long f—ing night.”
Wilkins and the rest of the Atlanta locker room was speechless. They’d never seen anything like it. All they could do was lace ’em up and find out what Jordan meant by a long night.
Jordan dropped 61 points on the Hawks that night
Whether Jordan felt extra confident the entire day leading up to the game or the pregame trash talk got him juiced up to put on a show, Jordan went out and scored 61 points against Atlanta that night. It was one of five games in Jordan’s career in which he scored more than 60 points.
That story from Wilkins is one of the countless examples of Jordan’s iconic competitiveness. He could talk trash and back it up better than any athlete ever could. Wilkins’ story wouldn’t be memorable today if Jordan scored 20 points on 7 of 18 shooting that night.
He told the Hawks to prepare for a “long f—ing night,” then proceeded to score 61 on 22 of 38 shooting. It remains today one of the greatest trash talk sports stories ever.